Salisu Yusuf: Players want Nigeria caretaker coach to be made permanent

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport
Salisu Yusuf
Salisu Yusuf has impressed Nigeria's players in his two matches in charge

Nigeria's players would like to see caretaker boss Salisu Yusuf given the manager's job on a permanent basis, says Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi.

The Super Eagles have been without a permanent coach since Sunday Oliseh quit in February.

Yusuf has guided Nigeria to victories over Mali and Luxembourg in two friendly matches in May.

"Coach Salisu Yusuf has been fantastic, and we would be more than happy for him to get the job," Onazi told BBC Sport.

"He's a humble professional and we [the players] told the NFF officials in Luxembourg that they should support these coaches by handing them at least two years contracts.

"The players are very happy with him - if you see the team fighting hard for each other and staying disciplined in positions during those two friendlies, he's the reason behind it."

Nigeria were rocked by Oliseh's exit, brought about by a dispute over contract violations, and they had to play two crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Egypt in March under the temporary charge of Under-23 coach Samson Siasia.

The three-time African champions were eliminated from the competition and will not feature at next year's finals in Gabon.

Nigeria defender William Troost-Ekong feels the managerial upheaval, which has led to six coaches in six years, has not helped the team's quest to deliver results.

"Instability in the managerial position has had a negative impact on the team," Troost-Ekong said.

"We've seen managers come and go under two years and it's not good for progress. Right now we all know what the new man [Yusuf] is doing and with support from everyone we can deliver.

"I'm positive the federation will know the right steps to make but the sooner they make the decision, the better it will be for everybody."

'It's all about opportunity'

Yusuf, 54, who has worked as assistant manager under Stephen Keshi, Oliseh and Siasia, believes he is ready to be the top man ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in October.

"I feel honoured that the players find me worthy of the job because they played with freedom under this coaching set-up," he told BBC Sport.

"I shared my philosophy with the players, we made them responsible for the success of the team on the pitch and they enjoyed it.

"I was assistant coach for three previous managers and I have managed all the top teams in Nigeria. Personally I think it's all about the opportunity to do it - so why not?"

A former El Kanemi and Ranchers Bees midfielder, Yusuf has 15 years working experience as a coach in the domestic league.

Yusuf, who recently visited Scotland to understudy the coach of Hearts FC, led Kano Pillars to the Nigerian League title in 2008 and Enyimba to domestic Cup success in 2013.